Bagui, Mali – Magnata is a 43-year-old commercial saleswoman from Bagui. For 15 years, Sanata traded smoked fish and root vegetables to feed her family. As a widower, she depended upon income from her small business to educate, clothe, and feed her children.
When political crisis struck Mali in 2012, Sanata’s family—like many in the region—was forced to flee the violence, leaving valuable assets behind.
“The crisis changed my life,” Sanata said. “Everything I had built collapsed around me like a house of cards.”
Sanata left her village, leaving all her belongings behind, out of fear that jihadist groups would enlist her children. When she returned 18 months later, her house was in ruins and rebels had taken most of her business supplies.
“I needed funding to rebuild my business, but local agencies were not loaning,” Sanata said.
Too many clients had defaulted due to the crisis, and local funds needed to recapitalize before issuing more loans. Out of work and homeless, Sanata fell back upon the generosity of her family and neighbors to keep her children alive.
Then, with support from the United States Agency for International Development/Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), the Near East Foundation began implementing the Restoring Economic Capacity of Populations Affected by the Crisis in Northern Mali (RECAPE) project to address the immediate recovery needs of people in northern Mali to restore livelihoods and food security.
Through the project, Sanata received a cash grant. She reconnected with her network of suppliers and distributors, replaced capital stolen in her absence, rebuilt her house using mud bricks in place of straw, and even purchased a canoe to increase her fishing activity. Today, her catch has recovered to pre-crisis levels, and she has enough money to pay for food and send her children to school.
“When I first heard that grants were available, I did not believe it,” Sanata said. “But when I received my voucher and learned where and how to claim my grant, I began to cry, knowing that someone thought of my suffering and answered my prayers for help. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Cash grants have helped 1,900 people to begin to reestablish livelihoods activities after liberation from the takeover by armed rebel groups in 2012. Near East Foundation economic recovery agents provided guidance to grantees in designing (or redesigning) income-generating activities for rapid recovery. Project beneficiaries reported improved living conditions and financial autonomy, as well as increased working capital and economic activity.
The U.S. Agency for International Development administers the U.S. foreign assistance program, providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 80 countries worldwide.